Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How I Bought Exactly the Car I Wanted Using Just the Phone and the Internet

In 2002, the lease was up on my current car, so I decided it was time to get a new one. Like most people, I generally don't like going to a car dealership to buy a car. At the beginning of my career, I worked for 6 months as a car sales person so I knew exactly what would happen if I went to the car dealership:

The sales person would "assess my needs." Then get me to settle for a car that they had in stock on the lot. Then I'd have to go for a test drive. Then negotiate on a price. Fill out a credit application. Sign the paperwork in the Finance and Insurance office. All the while they attempted to sell me additional add-ons to the car--paint protection, under coating, and extended warranty.

If I was lucky, the entire process would take about 5-6 hours. Plus be physically exhausting.

That's if I was lucky. If I was unlucky, I'd have to shop from dealership to dealership and negotiate several times before I finally found the price and the car I wanted. The entire process could easily take several hours a day for a week or more.

At the time, I was working as a consultant at a very high hourly wage. And at the time, the company needed me to even work extra hours in order to complete an important project. So, for me to take any time off just to buy a car was not only a waste of time, but would probably cost me hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars in lost income.

So, I decided to take control of the situation. I decided that I would find exactly the car I wanted on the internet, and do everything else over the phone. I decided I wasn't going to even step on the dealership lot until it was time to sign the final papers and pick up the car. After the experience, I'm convinced that you don't have to earn a lot of money to do what I did, you just need a plan and be prepared to follow it through exactly.

Here's what I did:

1) I decided on exactly the car that I wanted. This strategy is not going to work if you are at the stage where you are just browsing for a car. In my case, the way I decided was to rent the type of car I wanted for a week. What happened was that the dealership where I had my car serviced rented me a Jeep Liberty. I had the car for a solid week so I had a chance to get to know the car's basics. How it drove, what the visibility was like, what the gas mileage was like, etc. Even though it was a base model, I absolutely loved it.

The best way to find out about a car that you are interested in is to rent it for several days. You are not going to learn much about a car in a 10 minute test drive. If you can't find the exact car, at least drive a similar car by the same manufacturer. There are usually a lot of similarities. Also, make certain you research the car in Consumer Reports.

2) Once I knew the make and model of the car, I researched it online using the manufacturer's website. There I was able to see all of the available exterior and interior colors, determine the difference between the different model types (e.g., Sport vs. Limited, etc), and the options. In my case, I wanted the car "fully loaded."

3) Using the online tools of the manufacturer's website, I designed the car exactly the way I wanted it and got the basic information on the manufacturer's suggested retail price--the sticker of the car. That told me what the high end of the price was going to be (but of course, I had no intention of paying full sticker price).

4) I contacted my insurance company to find out what the exact insurance price would be on the car. This is important because your insurance will probably go up or down when you buy a new car. You want to know this information upfront before making a final decision so that there are no surprises.

5) I arranged for the financing I would need for my car. In my case it was easy. My insurance company (USAA) also providing car financing at extremely low interest rates. They took all the necessary information over the phone--no credit application to fill out.

You may have to shop around for your financing and fill out a credit application, but believe me, it's quicker (and usually cheaper) to make those arrangements before you go to the dealership. What the lender will probably do is tell you that they will loan you up to 75% of the car's value up to a certain value. It will all be based on your credit application and credit rating.

By getting the financing in advance, you know exactly how much you will be able to afford, and the interest rate and monthly payments are even before you speak to the dealer. This gives you a lot more leverage in negotiating the best deal and gives you time to think without a sales person pressuring you for a decision so he or she can move on to the next sale. Plus you don't have to wait around at the dealership for them to approve your loan.

6) I went back online to locate the dealerships in my area. In the case of Jeep, they not only listed the dealership, they also listed their inventory. I not only new exactly what car I wanted, I new exactly which dealerships had the car and how many cars of this type were in the area.

7) After this preparation, it was time to call the dealership. In my case, I called the original dealership who had rented me the Liberty. I was impressed with their service department, so I decided to give them the first shot. I knew from my research that they didn't have the car, but I also new by experience that they could arrange for a trade with another dealer.

I spoke to the sales person and directly explained my situation: my lease was up on my current car. I wanted to turn it in and buy a new car. I explained that this was going to be the easiest sale he ever made. I already knew exactly the car I wanted. I had already driven the car, so I didn't need a test drive. I already had my financing. I knew what a fair price for the car was.

I told him that we either do the deal over the phone, or I will have to go some place else. He referred me to the sales/desk manager who had to approve the deals. I put him in touch with the lender so they new I was serious. Since they had to trade with another dealership for the car, I had to put down a small deposit using my ATM card.

8) They arranged for the dealer trade, got exactly the make, model, and color I wanted. They contacted the lender directly to give them the VIN number and the price.

9) The lender Fedex'd me the check made out to the dealership for the amount agreed upon.

10) I went to the dealership during a week day when sales traffic was slow. I wanted to show respect for the sales staff's time by not going when it was busy. And I wanted to get in and out in record time. I dropped off my leased car, signed the papers, gave them the check from the lender, wrote a separate check for the down payment, and drove off in my new car. I spent about 20 minutes in total at the dealership. And most of that time was the sales person showing me the car--and forcing me to take a 10 minute test drive.

By being prepared, by demonstrating to the dealership that I knew what I was doing, by making the deal easy for them, by respecting their time, I not only was able to get exactly the car I wanted, I got a great price. And, most important to me, it took very little of my personal time.

You don't have to be an hourly paid consultant or a former car salesperson to get a similar result. It's all in the preparation and especially in the attitude. I approached the situation with complete confidence that this deal was going to happen. That confidence was based upon solid preparation in advance.

It was also based on complete integrity. Because I was prepared, I made certain that the sales manager knew that I would do exactly what I said I would do--if they met my terms. I convinced them that they could trust me not to shop around at other dealerships if they met my terms. I made sure that it really was the easiest sale they ever made. I reduced the salesperson's role to that of an order taker.

This strategy will not work if you try to pit one dealership in competition with another after they give you a price. That's not fair to them. If they offer you a fair price you can live with and the convenience of doing the deal over the phone, you have an obligation to follow through on your part of the agreement.

So, it's critical that you have all of the other approvals you need before you make the first call to the dealership. Otherwise, they will identify you as a "shopper" or a "be back" and only negotiate with you at the dealership.

I should also add that through out this process, I used my Power Affirmations (see information in the bio below) to stay completely on target and to get exactly what I wanted in a manner that was also more than fair to the dealership. This may sound corny to some, but it's the absolute truth.

By the way, it's three years later and I still love my car. It pays to know exactly what you want, to have a plan to get it, and have the confidence to take action and not settle for anything less.

Copyright (c) 2005 Bill Marshall - All rights reserved. Feel free to republish this article provided you include the copyright information and the weblinks where possible.

For practical self-improvement tips, visit Get my new free e-book, "Power Affirmations: Power Positive Conditioning for Your Subconscious Mind"


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